The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade is commencing the second phase of its national consultations on Solomon Islands' trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, commonly referred to as PACER Plus.

These consultations follow on from a series of meetings that took place in early April 2011 and included a roundtable session with all Permanent Secretaries and many key stakeholders in trade.

This second phase seeks to build on initial consultations, where much of the focus involved introducing stakeholders to PACER Plus. The consultations will continue through until mid-August and will be assisted by independent regional trade expert, Professor Robert Scollay.

Stakeholders will be invited to engage in more detailed discussions and the consultations will cover a wider range of organizations including greater engagement with private sector actors.

Consultations will also be taking place in three Provinces; Western, Malaita and Temotu, which will help to ensure that the findings and recommendations resulting from the PACER Plus consultations reflect a more complete picture of national interests, views and challenges in the negotiations.

The second phase of consultations will conclude with a national workshop where initial findings will be presented and further discussed. Following the workshop, a report will be drafted to guide the Solomon Islands Government on the way forward in its PACER Plus Consultations. Organizations and companies will be contacted over the coming weeks to arrange consultation meetings.

PACER Plus is a process launched by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2008 and is now being developed to discuss, more broadly, regional economic integration of Forum Island Countries with Australia and New Zealand. The process was formally commenced by Forum Leaders in August 2009.

At this stage, it is not clear what issues will be included in PACER Plus or the shape of the final package. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade is stressing the need for PACER Plus consultations to be truly national and inclusive to ensure that the benefits of a future agreement significantly outweigh the costs.

Any questions related to the process of PACER plus national consultations can be directed to the Department of External Trade of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade.